That the results came as a huge relief, at least on the immediate term regardless of medium term prospects, with the rather unexpected scale of defeat and resultant suffered by the “Hindu” Right, and its hate cries, goes without saying.
The debacle of the Left is, however, is a complex story. Of its two and quarter stronghold states, it has performed pretty creditably in the “quarter” one, i.e. Tripura. Retained both the seats with large margins. It has done pretty badly in Kerala. But arguably has done a tad better than had been largely expected. Never mind the scale of defeat. Last election, the Congress had performed much worse. It is in West Bengal, the Left - actually the CPIM in particular - has done not only worse than last time, but far worse than expected and ever since 1977. This needs be carefully looked into.
There are quite a few factors.
The most obvious one is the consolidation of anti-Left forces including a significant section of the (radical) Left. In the process, the BJP had to be kept out. But with its dwindling strength in West Bengal that did not make much of a difference.
But that’s only a part of the story. As per a report in the ToI, the “CPM alone lost 5.5% [point] in vote share, dropping from 38.6% to 33.1%, and its allies in the Left also shed 2%, so that the front’s combined vote share came down from 50.8% last time to 43.3% this time.” That’s a rather steep fall by any standards.
That the Trinamool Congress did evolve over the years to (sort of) fill in the large Left space evacuated by the traditional Left and made bold to break with the Hindu nationalist BJP to align with a section of the sundry Left and the Congress, and more importantly to gain the confidence of the common Muslims of the state (constituting a fourth of the populace) played a major role.
The shift in the Left-essence of Left politics was epitomised in its brutal, nay monstrous, handling of Singur, and more graphically in Nandigram. That, in a very large way, alienated the rural poor, Muslims and Dalits in particular. Its traditional electoral mainstays.
Its withdrawal of support from the Central government on the issue of the “nuclear deal” with the hope of attracting Muslim votes (“Lucknow is nearer to Tehran than Washington”) badly backfired. Indian Muslims are far more concerned with the immediate safety of their own lives than distant Iran or Palestine.
But even that does not complete the story. The malady goes far deeper. The degenerated arrogance spawned by continued stay in, apparently unchallengeable, power coming on top of deeply ingrained Stalinist traditions which treat masses as rather contemptible objects - to be bribed and bullied - in order to be mastered over, has eventually met with its own nemesis.
It is too difficult to restrain oneself from citing Brecht to illustrate the terrible essence of that politics - the monstrous degeneration of the Left in the name of leftism:
After the uprising of the 17th June
The Secretary of the Writer’s Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?
But going beyond the immediate, given the culture of brutal violence and retribution that has been nurtured over the decades, one only shudders in terror at imagining the prospects that would follow in the event of the rather likely defeat of the Left in the next assembly election. The track record and lumpen character of the Trinamool hardly provides any reassurance. Perhaps only such nightmarish visions would come to the eventual rescue. One can only hope.